The Seventh Circle
 
A hot red mist, acrid with the scent of blood
and carrying anguished voices crying in the night,
envelops you as you cross the threshold
to go downdowndown that long and terrible staircase.
 You cannot see him but you know that somewhere,
hidden in the gloom, lurks the Minotaur,
impassive and mute, ready to roughly
shove you along if you try to turn back.
 
The floor, covered in red and lions of gold,
singes the soles of your bare feet
while the accoutrements of your transgressions –
guns and ropes of bullets strung like deadly pearls,
swords and pikes and knives and wicked pointed stars –
clank and groan as they smash against each other
and your body in a metallic chorus of death
with every step descended.
 
You are condemned, again and again,
to this baptism of fire and blood.
The river awaiting blazes with a fire that heats
but never boils away the scarlet liquid life
that will caress your skin up to the eyebrows;
and should you try to rise, to lift your face from the furious tide,
a legion of centaurs armed with the arrows of hell
will loose a volley that will keep you in your place.
 
You recognize your brothers in arms,
sadists and torturers, murderers all, in this red river,
but no one speaks or offers any gesture of comradeship.
You stoic solitary souls suffer your retribution in silence.
This is no one’s condemnation but your own;
it is, you think, what you have earned, what you deserve;
and no one – no judge, no jury, no god –
put you in this place but you.
© 2013 RC deWinter ~ All Rights Reserved

Painting: Descent into the Inferno
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